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ASA Press Release Category

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

ASA Press Release: Health Benefits of Marriage May Not Extend to All

Marriage may not always be as beneficial to health as experts have led us to believe, according to a new study.
Researchers made two discoveries that explain why: First, marriage provides less protection against mortality as health deteriorates, even though it does seem to benefit those who are in excellent health. Secondly, married people tend to overestimate how healthy they are, compared to others.

“We believe marriage is still good for the health of some people, but it is not equally protective for everyone,” said Hui Zheng, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State University. “For those who are already in poor health, marriage doesn’t seem to provide any extra benefits.”

The results generally held true for both men and women. They were also similar for all types of unmarried people, including divorced, widowed, and never married. The researchers also included separated people in the unmarried category.

Zheng conducted the study with Patricia Thomas, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas at Austin’s Population Research Center. Their results appear in the March issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior (JHSB).

The researchers used data on about 789,000 people who participated in the National Health Interview Survey from 1986 to 2004. In this survey, participants rated their own health on a five-point scale (excellent, very good, good, fair, poor). Zheng and Thomas then used follow-up data to identify the nearly 24,100 people who died between 1986 and 2006.

The self-rated health measure used in the JHSB study has been found to be one of the best predictors of whether a person will die in both the short and long term—even better than doctor diagnosis in some cases, Zheng said. The researchers used a statistical model to determine how self-rated health, marriage status, and other factors related to mortality risk over a three-year period.

Overall, the researchers confirmed the volumes of previous research that has found that, overall, being unmarried—including never married, divorced, widowed, and separated—significantly increases the risk of death within three years. For example, a never-married person who lists his health as “excellent” is two times more likely to die within three years than a similar married person in excellent health.

But their new finding is that as self-rated health declines (from excellent down to poor), the mortality advantage for married people diminishes.

For example, for never-married people, each unit decline in health (e.g., from fair to poor) decreases the risk of death compared to married people by 12 percent. When people rate their health as “poor,” there is essentially no difference in mortality risks between married and unmarried people.

“These results suggest that marriage may be important for the prevention of disease, but not as helpful once people become seriously ill,” Zheng said. “That’s why we see a protective effect of marriage when people are in excellent health, but not when they are in poor health.”

The researchers confirmed that marriage offers diminishing protection against mortality at poorer levels of  health by using another, more objective measure of health. They compared married and unmarried people’s responses to questions about how well they could handle routine care activities such as eating and bathing, as well as activities that promote independent living, such as driving and cooking.

The results showed that married and unmarried people have similar mortality rates when they have worse
health as measured by limitations on their ability to perform these types of activities. But the diminishing protection of marriage as health declines is only part of the explanation about why marriage may not guard health as much as assumed. The other explanation uncovered by the study is that married people overestimate how healthy they are.

“The married don’t seem to report their health as being poor until they’ve already developed much more severe health problems,” Zheng said. “They have a different threshold for what they consider to be bad health compared to unmarried people.”

That means that once a married person does rate his health as “poor,” he may be sicker than a similar single person who also lists his health as poor.

The reason may have to do with the social support married people receive from their spouses. “Even when married people do get sick, the impact on their life may be less because of the support they receive from their husband or wife,” Zheng said. “They don’t rate their health as low as do unmarried people, because their spouse helps them cope.”

These results shouldn’t be used to cast doubt on the validity of self-rated health measures, Zheng said. In general, self-rated health is still very useful and accurate in predicting mortality. However, the results here show researchers should use such measures cautiously when comparing people of different marital statuses.

People should also be clear about what marriage can and cannot do when it comes to health. “Marriage is helpful in persuading people to adopt a healthy lifestyle that can lead to a longer life,” Zheng said. “But it is not as useful in helping people recover from a serious illness.”

The research was supported in part by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Health and Child Development.

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Thursday, February 28th, 2013

ASA Press Release: ASA Files Amicus Brief with U.S. Supreme Court in Same-Sex Marriage Cases

WASHINGTON, DC, February 28, 2013 — The American Sociological Association (ASA) weighed in on the gay marriage cases before the U.S. Supreme Court today, filing an amicus brief outlining social science  research that shows “children fare just as well” when raised by same-sex or heterosexual parents.

“The results of our review are clear,” said ASA President Cecilia Ridgeway. “There is no evidence that  children with parents in stable same-sex or opposite-sex relationships differ in terms of well-being. Indeed, the greater stability offered by marriage for same-sex as well as opposite-sex parents may be an asset for child well-being.”

Founded in 1905, the ASA has more than 14,000 members and a long history of presenting the consensus research findings of sociologists to American courts for their use in evaluating evidence and legal issues. In March, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear cases on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages already legalized under the law of several states, and Proposition 8, which revoked the right of same-sex couples to marry in California.

“An issue at the heart of these cases is whether family composition, per se, affects the well-being of children and thus, provides a justification for limiting the right to marry,” said Ridgeway, the Lucie Stern Professor of Social Sciences in the Sociology Department at Stanford University. “This core question is an empirical one and is the subject of a broad range of social science research. As a scientific body, ASA has a duty to provide the court with a systematic and balanced review of the evidence to assess what the consensus of scholarly research has shown.”

In their briefs to the court, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the U.S. House of Representatives, which is defending DOMA, the Hollingsworth Petitioners, which are defending Proposition 8, and their respective supporters assert that children fare better with opposite-sex parents than with same-sex parents.

“When the social science evidence is exhaustively examined—which the ASA has done—the facts demonstrate that children fare just as well when raised by same-sex parents,” states the ASA amicus brief. “Unsubstantiated fears regarding same-sex child rearing do not overcome these facts and do not justify upholding DOMA and Proposition 8.”

Wendy Diane Manning, Professor of Sociology, Director of the Center for Family & Demographic Research, and Co-Director of the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University, led ASA’s examination of the social science evidence. Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP of New York City served as counsel to the ASA on the brief.

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Thursday, February 28th, 2013

ASA Press Release: Study: Same-Sex Cohabitors Less Healthy Than Those in Heterosexual Marriages

Same-sex cohabitors report worse health than people of the  same socioeconomic status who are in heterosexual marriages, according to a new study, which may  provide fuel for gay marriage proponents.

“Past research has shown that married people are generally healthier than unmarried people,” said Hui  Liu, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of sociology at Michigan State University.

“Although our study did not specifically test the health consequences of legalizing same-sex marriage, it’s very plausible that legalization of gay marriage would reduce health disparities between same-sex cohabitors and married heterosexuals.”

Titled, “Same-Sex Cohabitors and Health: The Role of Race-Ethnicity, Gender, and Socioeconomic Status,” the study, which appears in the March issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, compares the self-rated health of 1,659 same-sex cohabiting men and 1,634 same-sex cohabiting women with that of their different-sex married, different-sex cohabiting, unpartnered divorced, widowed, and never-married counterparts. The study of white, black, and Hispanic 18 to 65-year-olds used pooled, nationally representative data from the 1997 to 2009 National Health Interview Surveys (NHIS). NHIS respondents rated their overall health as excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor. As part of their study, Liu and her co-authors, Corinne Reczek, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Cincinnati, and Dustin Brown, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology and the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin, divided the respondents into two groups: those who reported excellent, very good, or good overall health and those who reported fair or poor overall health.

“When we controlled for socioeconomic status, the odds of reporting poor or fair health were about 61 percent higher for same-sex cohabiting men than for men in heterosexual marriages and the odds of reporting poor or fair health were about 46 percent higher for same-sex cohabiting women than for women in heterosexual marriages,” Liu said.

As for why same-sex cohabitors reported worse health than people of the same socioeconomic status in heterosexual marriages, Liu said there could be several reasons. “Research consistently suggests that ‘out’ sexual minorities experience heightened levels of stress and higher levels of discrimination, and these experiences may adversely affect the health of this population,” Liu said. “It may also be that samesex cohabitation does not provide the same psychosocial, socioeconomic, and institutional resources that come with legal marriage, factors that are theorized to be responsible for many of the health benefits of marriage.”

According to the researchers, it is possible that providing same-sex cohabitors the option to marry would boost their measures of self-rated health because they would experience higher levels of acceptance and lower levels of stigma. “Legalizing same-sex marriage could also provide other advantages often associated with heterosexual marriage—such as partner health insurance benefits and the ability to file joint tax returns—that may directly and indirectly influence the health of individuals in same-sex unions,” Liu said.

The researchers also found that same-sex cohabitors reported better health than their different-sex cohabiting and single counterparts, but these differences were fully explained by socioeconomic status. “Without their socioeconomic status advantages, same-sex cohabitors would generally report similar levels of health as their divorced, widowed, never-married, and different-sex cohabiting counterparts,” Liu said.

Interestingly, the study suggests that the pattern of poorer self-rated health of same-sex cohabitors in comparison with those in heterosexual marriages does not vary by gender and race-ethnicity. In contrast, results comparing same-sex cohabitors with different-sex cohabiting and single women, but not men, revealed important racial-ethnic patterns. “After we controlled for socioeconomic status, black women in same-sex cohabiting relationships reported worse health than black women of any other non-married union status, while white women in same-sex cohabiting relationships actually reported better health than both white women in different-sex cohabiting relationships and divorced white women,” said Liu, who explained that black women in same-sex cohabiting relationships may experience significant social discrimination and homophobia, and such stressors may shape their health in especially detrimental ways.

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Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

ASA Press Release: Study: Husbands Who Do More Traditionally Female Housework Have Less Sex

WASHINGTON, DC, January 24, 2013 — Married men who spend more time doing traditionally female
household tasks—including cooking, cleaning, and shopping—report having less sex than husbands who
don’t do as much, according to a new study in the February issue of the American Sociological Review.

“Our findings suggest the importance of socialized gender roles for sexual frequency in heterosexual
marriage,” said Sabino Kornrich, the study’s lead author and a junior researcher at the Center for
Advanced Studies at the Juan March Institute in Madrid. “Couples in which men participate more in
housework typically done by women report having sex less frequently. Similarly, couples in which men
participate more in traditionally masculine tasks—such as yard work, paying bills, and auto
maintenance—report higher sexual frequency.”

The study, “Egalitarianism, Housework, and Sexual Frequency in Marriage,” which considers
heterosexual married couples in the United States, relies on nationally representative data from the
National Survey of Families and Households. Men in the study reported having had sex an average of 5.2
times in the month prior to the survey while women reported 5.6 times on average. But, both men and
women in couples with more gender-traditional divisions of household labor reported having had more
sex than those with more egalitarian divisions.

“The results suggest the existence of a gendered set of sexual scripts, in which the traditional
performance and display of gender is important for creation of sexual desire and performance of sexual
activity,” said Kornrich, who co-authored the study with two University of Washington researchers, Julie
Brines, an associate professor of sociology, and Katrina Leupp, a doctoral candidate in sociology.

The researchers also investigated, and ultimately ruled out, a number of other possible explanations for
their findings. For example, they explored the possibility that couples with more traditional divisions of
labor had more sex because the husbands in those relationships were sexually coercive. “Wives’ reported
satisfaction with their sex life has the same relationship to men’s participation in household labor as
sexual frequency,” Kornrich said. “Had satisfaction with sex been low, but frequency high, it might have
suggested coercion. However, we didn’t find that.”

In addition, the researchers found that happiness, religion, gender ideology, and a range of other
variables did not affect the relationship between more traditional divisions of labor and more frequent
sexual activity.

“The importance of gender has declined over time, but it continues to exert a strong influence over
individual behaviors, including sexual frequency within marriage,” Kornrich said.

But, for husbands who might see the study as justification for not cooking, cleaning, shopping, or
performing other traditionally female household tasks, Kornrich issued a warning. “Men who refuse to
help around the house could increase conflict in their marriage and lower their wives’ marital satisfaction,”
he said. “Earlier research has found that women’s marital satisfaction is indeed linked to men’s
participation in overall household labor, which encompasses tasks traditionally done by both men and
women.”

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Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

ASA Press Release: Study Examines Link Between Incarceration and Psychiatric Disorders

WASHINGTON, DC, January 16, 2013 — Psychiatric disorders are prevalent among current and former inmates of correctional institutions, but what has been less clear is whether incarceration causes these disorders or, alternatively, whether inmates have these problems before they enter prison. A study coauthored by Jason Schnittker, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, shows that many of the most common psychiatric disorders found among former inmates, including impulse control disorders, emerge in childhood and adolescence and, therefore, predate incarceration. Yet, incarceration seems to lead to some mood related psychiatric disorders, such as major depression, which have important implications for what happens to inmates after their release.

Michael Massoglia, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Christopher Uggen, a professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota, co-authored the study, “Out and Down: Incarceration and Psychiatric Disorders,” which appears in the current issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Using data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, which took place between 2001 and 2003, the researchers examined the relationship between incarceration and psychiatric disorders after statistically adjusting for influences that might affect both, including an impoverished childhood background.

Their results reveal robust and long-lasting relationships between incarceration and psychiatric conditions that adversely affect one’s mood, such as major depression.

“These conditions, in turn, are strongly related to other impairments, including a diminished capacity to form social relationships and to focus on daily activities including work,” said Schnittker. “Although often neglected as a consequence of incarceration, mood related conditions might explain some of the difficulties former inmates experience following release.”

In the study’s conclusion, the researchers suggest that mental health treatment could help former inmates reintegrate into society and they encourage efforts to facilitate this. “Even though many former inmates want to get back on their feet after release, they experience numerous difficulties in doing so, some legal, some social, and some personal,” Schnittker said. “Being depressed probably makes all of these obstacles even more difficult to overcome. Reentry requires motivation, and depression can rob you of that.”

Schnittker’s research interests are in medical sociology, focusing on mental health, physical health, and the relationship between the two. His current research on the effects of incarceration on the health of individuals, families, and communities is funded in part by a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Investigator Award in Health Policy.
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Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

ASA Press Release: Parents’ Financial Help Linked to Lower College GPAs, Higher Graduation Rates

WASHINGTON, DC, January 15, 2013 — College students who aren’t studying hard may have their parents’
financial support to blame.

A new study by University of California, Merced, sociology professor Laura T. Hamilton found that
students’ GPAs decreased with increased financial support from their parents. The study also found that
students with financial aid from their parents were more likely to complete college and earn a degree. The
study, “More is More or More is Less? Parental Financial Investments during College,” will appear in the
February issue of the American Sociological Review and has been posted on the publisher’s website.
“Students with parental support are best described as staying out of serious academic trouble, but dialing
down their academic efforts,” Hamilton wrote in the study.

Over the past several decades, colleges and universities have responded to deep cuts in external funding
by increasing tuition. The costs increasingly fall on the shoulders of American parents, who often make
difficult financial decisions to send their children to college. Hamilton wanted to know whether parental
dollars translated to better college outcomes for children or whether they created disincentive to excel.
The answer turned out to be complex, with parental support reducing academic achievement but
improving the likelihood of graduation.

“Regardless of class background, the toll parental aid takes on GPA is modest,” Hamilton wrote. “Yet, any
reduction in student GPA due to parental aid—which is typically offered with the best of intentions—is
both surprising and important.”

College students may spend their time in ways that don’t reflect their parents’ wishes, Hamilton said. A
different study found today’s college students spend an average of 28 hours a week on classes and
homework combined, less than an average high school student spends in school alone. The same study
also found college students spend an average of 41 hours a week on social and recreational events.
According to Hamilton’s study, parental aid increased the odds of graduating within five years. Students
with no parental aid in their first year of college had a 56.4 percent predicted probability of graduating,
compared with 65.2 percent for students who received $12,000 in aid from their parents.

Hamilton said students might be satisficing—trying to be adequate on multiple fronts rather than trying to
excel in one particular area. This makes sense in the context of today’s young adult college experience,
where there are great freedoms, little oversight, and many social opportunities.

Hamilton notes that many other funding sources such as grants and scholarships, work-study, student
employment, and veteran’s benefits do not have negative effects on student GPA. Unlike parental aid or
loans, these other funding sources may come with a sense of having been earned by the student. With
decreased state and federal support for higher education, however, such funds are increasingly hard for
families to access.

Hamilton cautions that her results do not mean parents should cut off financial support altogether—
particularly given the importance of parental funds for getting a degree. However, it is important for
parents to set standards, such as a required GPA, and keep students accountable for their performance.

For the study, Hamilton relied on two nationally representative datasets collected by the National Center
for Educational Statistics. The research was supported by a grant from the American Educational
Research Association.

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Thursday, November 8th, 2012

ASA Press Release: Study: Education Levels In Asian American Neighborhoods Affect Residents’ Health

WASHINGTON, DC, November 8, 2012 — Higher neighborhood education is associated with better selfrated health among Asian Americans who live in Asian ethnic neighborhoods, but this correlation between  individual health and neighborhood education levels does not exist for Asian Americans living in nonAsian neighborhoods, according to a recent study in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
“When Asian Americans live in neighborhoods that are not Asian ethnic neighborhoods, the education  level of the neighborhood doesn’t affect their health,” says Emily Walton, an Assistant Professor of  Sociology at Dartmouth College, whose study considered 1,962 Asian Americans living in 256  neighborhoods in large metropolitan areas across the United States. The data set for her research was  taken from the National Latino and Asian American Study (NLAAS, 2003-04).
“Why would we think that education matters in a neighborhood?” she asks. “Research suggests that  when a population is highly educated they may advocate for certain neighborhood resources or institutions; that the rising tide of education in the neighborhood lifts everyone, even those individuals who may not have high educational attainment themselves. In the context of an Asian ethnic neighborhood, these institutions and resources accompanying higher levels of education may be culturally and socially oriented toward the group, and thus more effective in supporting health.”
Walton also found that while Asian Americans experience less discrimination when living in Asian neighborhoods, levels of social cohesion are not different from those of non-Asian neighborhoods. “This goes against conventional wisdom, which often explains better health among residents of ethnic enclaves as a result of the social support and connection they feel with members of their same racial group,” says Walton, who joined the sociology faculty in July 2012.
Walton’s findings are at odds with the historic perception of ethnic neighborhoods as temporary immigrant enclaves that immigrant residents leave for more integrated neighborhoods once they are financially able to do so.
“This image of ethnic neighborhoods is being dispelled by the residential patterns of contemporary Asian Americans,” Walton says, “as many, even those with a high socioeconomic status, choose to settle and then remain in predominantly Asian American neighborhoods.”
Sociologists refer to this as “resurgent ethnicity,” “where living in an ethnic neighborhood is more of a choice, rather than an economic or social constraint,” Walton explains. “Rather than thinking about ethnic neighborhoods as sites of disadvantage, we can think about the assets in ethnic neighborhoods and how living among others of similar ethnicity might actually be beneficial.”
As the racial and ethnic makeup of the U.S. continues to diversify, Walton’s findings add new complexity to the literature on segregation and ethnic neighborhoods. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, approximately 14.7 million people (5 percent of all Americans) identified their race as “Asian alone,” and this number is growing as Asians continue to immigrate to the U.S. in large numbers.
“Scholarship has tended to focus on levels and rates of integration and assimilation among current immigrants and the next generation, and that has been their measure of successful incorporation,” Walton says. “But we might do better to re-think that model, and instead say that living in an ethnic neighborhood in the second generation and beyond could actually be beneficial.”

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Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

ASA Press Release: Study: Conciliatory Tactics More Effective Than Punishment in Reducing Terrorism

WASHINGTON, DC, July 25, 2012 — Policies that reward abstinence from terrorism are more successful in reducing such acts of violence than tactics that aim to punish terrorists, suggests a new study in the August issue of the American Sociological Review.

Titled, “Moving Beyond Deterrence: The Effectiveness of Raising the Expected Utility of Abstaining from Terrorism in Israel,” the study looked specifically at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and found that between 1987 and 2004, Israeli policies and actions that encouraged and rewarded refrain from terrorist acts were more successful in reducing terrorism than policies focused on punishment.

“Our argument begins to challenge the very common view that to combat terrorism, you have to meet violence with violence,” said Erica Chenoweth, study co-author and Assistant Professor at the Josef Korbel School of International studies at the University of Denver.

The study is the first to empirically evaluate the potential of conciliatory tactics in reducing terrorism. It relies on data from the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism’s (START) Global Terrorism Database (GTD) and from the Government Actions in a Terrorist Environment-Israel (GATEIsrael) dataset. The GTD records global terrorist attacks, including Palestinian terrorist acts, while the GATE-Israel dataset, which the study authors developed, identifies counterterrorism strategies that Israel used against Palestinian targets and places them on a seven point scale from violent acts resulting in death to conciliatory acts involving peaceful gestures.

Examples of Israel’s conciliatory tactics that rewarded refrain from terrorist acts included: providing social services to potential terrorist constituencies, encouraging peace talks, withdrawing troops, releasing prisoners, and promoting cultural freedoms.

Israel’s repressive and punishment centered attempts to reduce terrorism included: passage of antiterrorism laws, extension of prison sentences, assassination, deportation, and military retaliation.

The study found these repressive and punishment based methods to be less effective in reducing terrorism. Yet, in an average month between 1987 and 2004, Israel took approximately 18 repressive or punishment based actions against Palestinian targets and less than eight conciliatory actions.

Chenoweth and her co-author Laura Dugan, an Associate Professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland, said they hope their findings encourage policymakers to give more consideration to conciliatory actions.

“The general consensus across the political spectrum is that when there is terrorism you have to fight back,” Dugan said. “This study suggests that there is value in looking at the grievances, the people most affected by these grievances, and the constituencies of these terrorist organizations.”

According to the study’s authors, when policymakers focused on improving the living conditions for Palestinian constituents, those same constituents were encouraged not to participate in terrorist organizations and, consequently, terrorism rates fell.

“If the constituency of a terrorist organization no longer supports that organization, then the organization can’t thrive,” Dugan said.

In addition, Dugan and Chenoweth argue that terrorists do not commit terrorist acts for the same reasons that common criminals commit crimes. Therefore, they believe counterterrorism tactics should not mirror typical crime fighting approaches.

“Strategies that successfully deter common criminals may be ineffective for terrorists,” Chenoweth said. “This is because terrorists are generally less concerned about being punished and more concerned about their role in ensuring the well-being of their movement and its constituency.”

While Dugan and Chenoweth found conciliatory policies to be more successful than repressive and punishment centered actions in reducing incidents of terrorism, the study authors are not completely opposed to the use of repressive and punishment based strategies.

“We do not recommend that governments adopt purely conciliatory policies,” Dugan said. “Our hope is that this research provides alternatives to solely focusing policy efforts on reducing the expected utility of bad behavior by also considering the value of raising the expected utility of good behavior.”

This study is based on research supported by the Science and Technology directorate of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

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About the American Sociological Association and the American Sociological Review The American Sociological Association (www.asanet.org), founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society. The American Sociological Review is the ASA’s flagship journal.

This press release was written by Arielle Baran, ASA Office of Public Affairs and Public Information.

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Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

ASA Press Release: Study: Alcohol Abuse May Be Cause, Rather Than Effect of Social Isolation, Poor Grades Among Teens

WASHINGTON, DC, June 12, 2012 — Rather than gaining “liquid courage” to let loose with friends, teenage drinkers are more likely to feel like social outcasts, according to a new sociological study.

Published in the June issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, the study shows alcohol consumption leads to increased social stress and poor grades, especially among students in schools with tightly-connected friendship cliques and low levels of alcohol abuse.

For their study, Robert Crosnoe, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, Aprile Benner, an assistant professor of human ecology at the University of Texas at Austin, and Barbara Schneider, a professor of sociology and education at Michigan State University, analyzed National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) data on 8,271 adolescents from 126 schools. Add Health, which began in 1994, is the largest and most comprehensive survey of health-related behavior among adolescents between grades 7 and 12.

The researchers, who also drew on Add Health’s companion Adolescent Health and Academic Achievement transcript study, found a correlation between drinking and feelings of loneliness and not fitting in across all school environments. But these feelings were especially significant among self reported drinkers in schools where fellow students tended to avoid alcohol and were tightly connected to each other. When not surrounded by fellow drinkers, they are more likely to feel like social outcasts, said Crosnoe, who, along with Benner, is a research affiliate at the University of Texas at Austin’s Population Research Center.

“This finding doesn’t imply that drinkers would be better off in schools in which peer networks are tightly organized around drinking,” Crosnoe said. “Instead, the results suggest that we need to pay attention to youth in problematic school environments in general but also to those who may have trouble in seemingly positive school environments.”

The researchers, who adjusted statistically for factors such as ethnicity, race, gender, and socioeconomic circumstances, tracked the respondents’ grade point averages and found a direct link between feelings of isolation and declining grades. The difference between drinkers who felt as though they did not fit in socially in school and their peers could equal as much as three tenths of a point in grade point average from year to year.

“In general, adolescents who feel as though they don’t fit in at school often struggle academically, even when capable and even when peers value academic success, because they become more focused on their social circumstances than their social and academic activities,” Crosnoe said.

The study, funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, has resulted in recommendations for how public schools should address nonacademic dimensions of school life and youth development in attempts to meet academic accountability benchmarks.

“Given that social development is a crucial component of schooling, it’s important to connect these social and emotional experiences of drinking to how teenagers are doing academically,” Crosnoe said.

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Monday, June 11th, 2012

ASA Press Release: Young People of Multiple Disadvantaged Groups Face Worse Health Due to More Discrimination

WASHINGTON, DC, June 11, 2012 — An Indiana University study found that teens and young adults who are members of multiple minority or disadvantaged groups face more discrimination than their more privileged peers and, as a result, report worse mental and physical health.

In general, as the number of minority or disadvantaged groups to which young people belonged increased—reflecting their gender, socioeconomic status, race, and sexual identity—the number of forms of discrimination they experienced and their frequency of exposure to discrimination also increased. As a result of their exposure to more forms of and more frequent discrimination, multiply disadvantaged teens and young adults experienced the most health problems.

“Past work on discrimination and health focused on adults and examined the relationship between discrimination and health by only looking at one form of discrimination,” said Eric Anthony Grollman, a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at IU Bloomington. “For me, these new findings really speak to the importance of looking at the multiple dimensions of discrimination and health. You cannot capture an individual’s full experience and well-being by just looking at race, for example.”

Grollman’s study, “Multiple Forms of Perceived Discrimination and Health among Adolescents and Young Adults,” appears in the June issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

For the study, Grollman analyzed responses from 1,052 participants in the Black Youth Culture Survey of the University of Chicago’s Black Youth Project. These data, which also included responses from young people who were Latino and white, provided a nationally representative sample that was diverse and evenly distributed across ages of survey participants, who were 15 to 25-years old.

Grollman’s study considered four forms of discrimination—based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and social class—as well as the frequency of discrimination. Teens and young adults in his study reported experiencing nearly two forms of discrimination on average. Those who were not from a minority or disadvantaged group (i.e., white, heterosexual males, whose families were never on welfare) reported experiencing 1.6 forms; those from one minority or disadvantaged group reported experiencing 1.7 forms; those from two reported experiencing 1.9 forms; those from three reported experiencing 2.1 forms; and those from four reported experiencing 2.8 forms.

When comparing teens and young adults who were not members of a minority or disadvantaged group with young people who were members of only one such group, Grollman found little difference in their reports of the number of forms and the frequency of discrimination they experienced. “Teens and young adults who are members of only one minority or disadvantaged group are virtually indistinguishable from young people who are not members of any of these types of groups in terms of their exposure to discrimination and their health status,” Grollman said.

A gap between teens and young adults who were not members of a minority or disadvantaged group and young people who were members of such groups became increasingly apparent, however, as the number of minority or disadvantaged groups increased.

Other findings from the study include:

  • More than half of the young people reported experiencing two or more forms of discrimination, and 13 percent reported experiencing all four forms of discrimination.
  • The measurements for depressive symptoms looked at the number of days teens and young adults reported feeling blue in the last month (0-30) plus the number of days they reported feeling disinterested in things in the past month (0-30), for a scale ranging from 0-60. Young people whowere not members of a minority or disadvantaged group averaged a score of 8.3, with the number increasing to 18.7 for those who were members of four such groups.
  • The self-rated scale for physical health ranged from 0 (fair or poor) to 3 (excellent). Teens and young adults who were not members of a minority or disadvantaged group averaged a score of 1.9; those from one averaged 1.9; those from two averaged 1.7; those from three averaged 1.6; and those from four averaged 1.3.

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